Sri Lanka’s new regime using old tactics of terror

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s new administration which has promised to restore human rights after a decade of iron fist rule was using the same strong-arm tactics of the previous regime to intimidate families of victims, the UN said today.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances told reporters in Colombo that some 200 relatives of missing people met with them and many who them had been questioned by security authorities.

"Some of the persons with whom we met have been questioned in relation to our visit. This is absolutely unacceptable in a democratic society" the vice chairman of the working group, Bernard Duhaime said.

"Building trust and confidence among the victims will not be possible without seriously addressing this crucial issue".

The working group also made it clear that the international community was also running out of patience.

"The time for promises is over.  These promises and commitments must now be followed by concrete efforts and tangible results," he said. "This is the only way to regain the trust of victims for past failures to address their rights.

"The government will need to adopt bold steps to reach out to and create confidence in the victims."

The government has promised to set up a missing persons office, pay reparations and ensure accountability for war time atrocities, but has been slow to deliver.

-Secret detention centre of the navy-

They also wanted the government to thoroughly investigate a secret detention centre maintained inside the main naval facility in Trincomalee where they suspect that people had been tortured.

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The working group said they suspected that people had been held inside an underground facility at the Trincomalee naval facility and believed that it could not have existed without the knowledge of senior commanders.

Former navy chief Wasantha Karannagoda’s main aide  lieutenant commander Sampath Munasinghe is already being held in connection with the abduction of several Tamil school boys in Colombo between 2008 and 2009.

The CID has told court that a navy team had abducted the boys in order to extort money from their families to exchange for their return. It is believed that the boys were held at the underground illegal cell in Trincomalee.

The UN working group said they believed there may have been many more illegal detention centres operated during the former regime and wanted the new administration to speed up investigations.

They also felt that the Sri Lankan authorities lacked the resources to carry out investigations as well as prosecutions. The forensic capabilities were also limited, they noted.(Colombo November  18 2015)

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